Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dear Student

Dear Student:

This letter has been a long time coming. Here we are, nine weeks into the semester, and while I probably should have written sooner, I didn't. Because I thought maybe life in the classroom would get better. But it hasn't. (Hey, what are you doing? You're supposed to be paying attention. Look here. Over here--AT THE WORDS--not over there. Okay, thank you. Continue reading.) 

You still saunter into my classroom, exactly two minutes late everyday. You toss your grungy bangs out of your eyes as you drop into the chair, and then open up your tattered notebook and find that offensive clicky pen. (Click, click, clickity-click-click.) When I look at you, I see you writing something onto your paper, but what that something is, I can't be sure. I hope you are following the lecture on impulse propagation--perhaps you're making sure that you know what the difference is between a graded potential and an action potential--but judging by the scores of your last exam you are not. And by the way, Ginandtonic is not an acceptable answer to classifying a solution as isotonic, hypertonic, or hypotonic. Funny, yes, but not something for which you will get credit. This is, after all, Anatomy and Physiology. Not creative writing.

I have asked myself several times, What am I doing wrong? Am I teaching the material at a level that is too difficult? Did I neglect a fundamental topic back in Chapter 1 so that what I'm trying to teach now isn't being understood? Am I speaking Greek? (Sometimes, I'm speaking Latin, but rarely Greek.) Are you stupid? (Yes, that question traversed my mind several times over these last couple of dismal weeks, but since I don't like to use that word, I never actually said it aloud. Maybe I should have. Although had I done it, you'd likely have called the Chair on me. Chances are, though, the Chair would have taken my hand in hers and congratulated me on saying what she never dared to utter.) So that really only leaves one scenario, at least in my mind. What I've come to determine is that you might not be the brightest college student I've ever met, but you are--by far--the laziest.

Let's review: I give you a PowerPoint outline to follow. I give you that same information in outline format. I speak clearly and repeat important items (sometimes as many as five times). I arrive in the classroom 45 minutes early (every day that class is in session) and sit there, waiting for you to show up and ask me questions (which you've never done). I've adjusted my exam questions so that with each exam, they've gotten easier. And still you've scored between 40 and 50 percent. On. Every. Exam. Which means (and correct me if I am wrong) that I am not the problem. You are.

I didn't think that I'd have to tell you this, but I will. Because apparently no one else has. It's not enough to open a notebook and pretend to listen. It's not enough to watch me and nod your head at the words I'm saying. It's not enough to glance at the thick stack of notes an hour before a test and think, Wow, that sounds familiar. I hope I do okay on this one. It's not enough to even cram everything in the night before an exam. This course is tough, but you're making it tougher because you don't place studying as priority. (You mock my pain. Life is pain, Highness.)

I get it. You'd rather be hanging out with friends, playing Minecraft, taking your dog for a walk, or talking on your phone. Maybe you even like Bejeweled Blitz. Or prefer to watch movies while you sit, naked, on the couch. Hell if I know or care, really. There are plenty of other things I'd rather be doing than pounding my head against a concrete wall every time I walk in and have to lecture. But I'm there, showing up each day to try and get through to you and every other sorry ass in the class.

So let's learn from this experience and, over the next half of the semester, put our best feet forward. And by our, I really mean your. Because I'm doing all I can.


Your teacher.


Tanstaafl said...

+1 for the princess bride reference. I should add however, that the way this student studies is how some of us faked our way through too. :). We didn't get the highest mark, but still better than 50%

To quote Clint Eastwood " a man has got to know his limitations" and this student does seem to know his (I assume a he because that is how I pictured it)

Christina said...